RBI hikes GDP growth projection for FY24 to 7.3%, keeps rates, stance unchanged

RBI hikes GDP growth projection for FY24 to 7.3%, keeps rates, stance unchanged
Source: IANS
  • The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has decided to keep the repo rate unchanged at 6.5%.
  • Economists had expected the MPC to keep key rates unchanged due elevated inflation in December 2023.
  • A few experts hoped that it would change its stance to ‘neutral’ given the tight liquidity situation.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI)’s rate setting panel – the Monetary Policy Committee – decided to keep its key lending rate (repo rate) unchanged at 6.5% on Thursday. It also decided to remain focussed on the ‘withdrawal of accommodation’ stance.

RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said that both the decisions have been taken with five out of six members voting in favour. Governor Das said there was further room for transmission.

“Taking into account this growth-inflation dynamics and the fact that transmission of the cumulative 250 bps policy rate hike is still underway, the MPC decided to keep the policy repo rate unchanged at 6.50%. The MPC will carefully monitor any signs of generalisation of food price pressures which can fritter away the gains in easing of core inflation,” he said.

The MPC also raised the FY24 real GDP growth projection to 7.3% from 7%. It also set FY25’s real GDP growth projections at 7%. “The momentum in economic activity seen in FY24 is expected to continue in FY25 as well,” Das said. It also projected FY25’s Q1 GDP growth at 7.2%, Q2 to see 6.8% growth, Q3 at 7% and Q4 at 6.9%.

The MPC also retained FY24’s retail inflation projections at 5.4%, but set FY25’s inflation projections at 4.5%. It sees inflation for Q1 of FY25 at 5%, Q2 at 4%, Q3 at 4.6% and Q4 at 4.7%.

“Monetary policy was supported by pro-active supply-side measures by the government. That said, the job is not yet finished, and we need to be vigilant about new supply shocks that may undo the progress made so far,” Das said.

Das said that elevated levels of public debt was raising serious concerns in many economies including advanced economies. “On one hand, the odds of soft landing in the global economy increased. But the other hand, wars and conflicts add uncertainties to the outlook,” the governor said.

Experts have been expecting the monetary policy committee (MPC) to keep its key rates unchanged. India’s retail inflation for December 2023 came in at 5.7%, which is much higher than RBI’s comfort level of 4%.

“We expect the RBI to continue the pause stance in the upcoming policy. Strong US non-farm payroll data and wages seem to have pushed back on market expectations for a quick pivot to rate cuts. First rate cut on table from June or August 2024 looks the best bet now,” said a report by SBI Ecowrap.

Ajit Kabi, research analyst at LKP Securities said that the RBI is likely to support economic growth with a cautious stance on inflation. “Consequently, we expect the unchanged policy rate and possibility of a shift in stance to NEUTRAL. Additionally, RBI may take steps to improve liquidity conditions. We expect a policy rate cut by June 24,” he added.

There has been a pressure of liquidity which made a few experts hope that it could change its stance from ‘withdrawal of accommodation’. “There is a strong case for the RBI to change its stance from ‘withdrawal of accommodation’ to ‘neutral’. Financial conditions have tightened a lot in the last few quarters. Real rates are reasonably high and likely to increase further as inflation is trending down,” said Pankaj Pathak, Fund Manager- Fixed Income, Quantum AMC.

While growth in deposits is much higher than last year on YTD basis as of January 12, the increase in credit and investments at ₹22.25 lakh crore is higher than that of deposits at ₹18.2 lakh crore. In terms of growth rates on a year-to-date basis, says Bank of Baroda data. Liquidity condition has also tightened with banking system liquidity running in deficit of over ₹2 lakh crore on daily basis.

“Under these conditions there is some part of the market segment that believes that a change in stance is possible, though we believe that this will not be the case. The fact that the corridor of call rates is being maintained at between repo and Marginal Standing Facility (MSF0 rate, is indicative of the fact that the withdrawal of liquidity position would continue,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at Bank of Baroda.